The world probably always has produced way too much music each year for any one person to process. But that’s never been more overwhelmingly clear than now, when we’re fully immersed in the age of streaming. I used to be able to survey the piles of CDs around my desk and have a rough idea what I was neglecting. Now, while keeping multiple ongoing lists, I know that stunning sounds would slip by me even if I spent all day diligently checking all possible platforms.
That means my tally of significant albums here is more baldly subjective and loaded with blank spots than ever. But that seems suited to the kaleidoscope of contradictory realities, divided timelines, and fearful erosion that was being alive in 2018. Along with each of my choices, I’ve included a roster of other records that offer comparable rewards, in or out of the same genre. And I’ll return soon to discuss them and many more 2018 releases, trends, and ideas with some of the country’s best critics in the annual year-end Slate Music Club.